Globalisation, devolution and the challenges of a postcolonial and multicultural society have fuelled the debate about national identity in Britain in recent years. Notions of individual and collective identity have revolved around a number of stereotypes of 'Britishness' or 'Englishness' which appear ever more incongruous. This study suggests that these debates still draw on discourses of Englishness which were shaped in the interwar period and amplified in Second World War propaganda. From the 1920s to the 1940s, Englishness as a form of collective and cultural identity can be described as a 'symbolic form', comprising specific notions of the people and their relationship to the country, most powerfully visualized in landscapes embodying a 'mythical present'.
Two case studies, focused on J.B. Priestley and Daphne du Maurier, explore crucial ways in which popular 'middlebrow' authors imagine and shape the nation, providing a fresh and innovative approach to literary negotiations of cultural identity.